Does Marijuana Really Need A Big-Box Store Like Walmart?


Graphic: Adam Vieyra/SD City Beat
The future of marijuana retailing in America? We hope not.

​By Jack Rikess

Toke of the Town

Northern California Correspondent
It is 8:05, Pacific Standard Time and the TV is rehashing the morning news. I’ve already boogie-boarded the Net for the past couple of hours reading the wires, the tubes, The Times; NY and LA, the blogs and of course the RSS feeds I have from all cannabis-related well-springs.
While the real news should be all about what’s happening in the Mideast (over there) or the Midwest (over here), but as of a minute ago, some guy in New York on Good Morning, America has just pulled out this tease before going to commercial. “Up next, the Wal-Mart of Weed, to open today in Sacramento, California.”

Photo: Ye Tian/
Big-box grow store weGrow opened today in Sacramento.

​All morning here in San Francisco, instead of how we got a milligram of snow last night, all I’ve been reading about is this weGrow mega-store opening going on in Sacramento. It’s in all the papers and on the tubes. Enough is enough.
This is why cannabis activists are having such a hard time. If you were on the outside looking in, you’d think marijuana is legal and thriving in California.
This is what I call living in the Era of Grassnost.
In Sacramento, with all the fanfare of new car dealership opening, the two guys who were featured in last month’s Mother Jones concerning the takeover of the marijuana industry by the New Young Turks, have obviously pulled out all media stops to gather this kind of attention. I’m sure the whole state is all atwitter with the events that are going to proceed today.
This hydroponic-garden store boasts to be the first of its kind to purely state that they are there for the marijuana grower. No shame. No code words. These buds are for you…
I guess the difference between having a candid conversation about marijuana in this Uber-store and all other garden variety stores in the state is in the other stores, you’re not allowed to ask questions about growing weed unless say…you ask. Because it’s a big mystery why the dude in the wool cap, long-shorts and the Bob Marley t-shirt is inquiring about the organic fertilizer named ‘Super-Buddy-Bud-Buds-Now’ and how much for a pallet’s worth. But I digress…

Photo: Daily Mail

​I don’t know these smart fellas behind this new attempt to reach out to a growing market, (sorry, sometimes can’t resist) and in a way, I don’t blame them in the sense that they’ve seen other people do it — why not them too? They want money.
But unlike my friends and I, they do not care about compassion, patients, or doing the right thing, which I know is subjective at best. They, like fake bottled water, are looking for the fastest and simplest way to make money.
I don’t object to their business practices or even their advertising budget; I just don’t like their swagger. Their non-hippie boastfulness of personally taking the industry to the next level because they feel they’re being honest because they have come forward as the first ‘out’ garden store.
Try telling people that you write about marijuana for a living. That’s out.
These guys who have allegedly left a trail out of Oakland as big as process server’s wake, for bad business and labor practices, continue to thrive. Supposedly because of their first attempt with an industrial grow near the Oakland airport, they are being pursued for leaving town without paying their tabs. Yet here they are on Good Morning, America, like every day in California, there’s another marijuana related story to tell.
Well, there is. I just wish it wasn’t this one.

Photo: Doing It 4 Me
Isleton, California’s Crawdad Festival was cancelled this year, because the town was too broke to hold it. Now they want to grow weed.

​The real story is 50 miles away in the tiny California town of Isleton. It’s best known for holding a crawdad festival each year, but tough economic times forced the city to terminate the event last year. There was a real concern the city would go broke.
So the town thinks, “Why don’t we do what everyone else is doing?” The “marijuana” light bulb turns on.  
To help stop a cavernous budget deficit, the city decided to accept a proposal to allow some city land to be used to grow medical marijuana.
Delta Allied Growers will build a 4,000-square-foot indoor medical marijuana nursery on a tiny piece of property inside the Isleton city limits.
The grower will pay the city either three percent of its profits or $25,000 — whichever is bigger. That’s a minimum of $300,000 a year of new revenue, but it could bring in as much as $600,000.
In addition to the taxes and fees, the growers have agreed to install security cameras anywhere in town that the Isleton police chief chooses. It will also buy the police department a new mainframe computer and new laptops so they can monitor the cameras anytime anywhere.

Graphic: Political Blotter

​The very reason that we can’t get a cohesive, clear picture of what is happening is because every city in Cali is doing their own thing. Thinking marijuana is their financial answer. Whether in the name of money or in the name of progressive change, there’s a game of musical chairs going on. Or its two steps forward, o
ne step back.
In one way, we’re working to get marijuana accepted by the general public while most of them are already assuming it is. So much of the industry already seems legal. This is why Eric Holder wants to step in, because the rules we have set up are so vague and full of loopholes. Enterprising young men or old town elders are entering a business that many of us are trying to regulate and bring a consistency to the proceedings.

Graphic: David Horsey/Seattle P.I.

​When the lamest of mainstream TV (girlfriend was watching it, not me) media announces the opening of the Wal-Mart of Weed in Sacto, Cali to nation of waking Americans, the news should be that Good Morning America is now announcing store openings that relate to pot. Forget about it that this store is probably only going to have the shelf life of week-old clones left out in the snow.
This kind of titillating announcement is a setback. Maybe it plays to Iowa but makes me sick here in SF. It doesn’t push the movement any farther ahead. In fact, in my opinion, because of their swagger and history of not doing the right thang, this is what the other side looks for when pointing out the hypocrisy of the movement.
These are the faces they’ll put on their playing cards when it comes time to figure out who the bad guys were.
Now I ask you, when it comes to marijuana today, who are you going to follow?
Us, who are trying to land this baby called weed onto a level playing field — or the Wal-Mart big dollar-eyes money guys who roll out one scheme after another in hopes of cashing in?
It’s All Happening…

Photo: Jack Rikess
Toke of the Town correspondent Jack Rikess blogs from the Haight in San Francisco.

Jack Rikess, a former stand-up comic, writes a regular column most directly found at

Jack delivers real-time coverage following the cannabis community, focusing on politics and culture.

His beat includes San Francisco, the Bay Area and Mendocino-Humboldt counties.

He has been quoted by the national media and is known for his unique view with thoughtful, insightful perspective.